Travel Gifts For The Last Minute Shopper That Won’t Break The Bank

With one of the biggest travel gift-giving holidays of the year coming up, not everyone is done shopping. To many gifters, last-minute mode is panic time and tactical shopping strategies kick in. Rather than simply buying a host of generic gift cards (akin to throwing money at the problem), get creative with gifts that show some thought.

A slap in the face saying, “Yes, I do care!” can be had by simply paying attention to your travelers’ air schedule. If a two-hour layover will give them time for lunch, check the airport list of concessions to see some place you might buy a gift card for.

Better yet, if you know that your traveler sneaks off to gate A13 at the Dallas/Ft Airport (DFW) for Popeye’s Chicken, something they would never admit to, get one of Popeye’s gift cards. (They also happen to have a “buy $20 card for $10” promo going on).

Internet time for many travelers is one of those sure-fire, absolutely-they-will-use-it gifts. In the air, GoGo Holiday JetPacks offers all-day access redeemable on any Gogo equipped flights between Dec. 22, 2012, and Jan. 3, 2013.

Discounted about 50%, a two-pack is just $14.50. Your frequent flyer might enjoy a 30-day unlimited access package for $49.50.

Europe Scratch Map is a way to keep track of where you have been or would like to go in Europe. This is a great one to give travelers who, when not on the road, have an office someplace where they could display it (like “Gawd I hate this job but look where I got to go because of the income it provides”).

Gently rub a coin against the places you have visited to reveal a burst of vibrant blue beneath. A great way to commemorate trips taken, or to dream of journeys yet to come ($24).

Crumpled City Maps
make folding a paper map a thing of the past, if Google and smart phones did not do that already. Travelers with Crumpled City Maps crunch them up into a ball and stuff it in their pocket.

Printed on some sort of durable, wonder-material, these maps are available for New York City, San Francisco, Chicago, Paris, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, Barcelona and Tokyo ($20).

[Photo Credit- Chris Owen]

5 Stages Of Travel Interactive Infographic

Saying that nearly 70 percent of all travelers begin planning online, Google has an infographic that details the five stages of travel. It’s a great look at how travelers move from merely dreaming about travel to sharing their travels with others.

Breaking the process down to Dreaming, Planning, Booking, Experiencing and Sharing, this infographic is part of Google’s multi-media research library of case studies, interviews with thought leaders, sound bites from their industry events and more.

Want to know more about why we click what we click and do what we do online when researching travel? Dive deep into insights around how consumers decide on airlines, hotels, car rentals and cruises for their travel needs with a series of Google studies.

Covering topics ranging from “Media Consumption In Israel” to “Travelers Road To Decision 2011,” trend-setting Google studies have interesting facts on a variety of topics.

[Flickr photo by Scurzuzu]

Google Street View Helps Visualize Cool Summer Attractions

As summer blazes on, travelers are looking for cool places to go. A quick escape from summer heat to a water park, beach or lake might be just what they have in mind too. But how about a look first? Google Street View can give us a panoramic view from positions along many streets in the world, including some major summer attractions.

A little warm where you are today? Click on one of these featured attractions for a taste of coolness and summer fun ahead.

Adventure Island is a water park located northeast of Tampa, Florida, across the street from Busch Gardens Tampa Bay, featuring 30 acres of water rides, dining and other attractions.

Discovery Cove is a theme park in Greater Orlando, Florida. Guests can interact with a variety of marine animals, most notably bottlenose dolphins. The park is located adjacent to sister parks SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica. In addition to swimming with dolphins, Discovery Cove guests can interact with exotic birds, tropical fish, rays and land mammals.

Santa Monica Pier is a large double-jointed pier located at the foot of Colorado Avenue in Santa Monica, California, and home to Pacific Park and a family amusement park with a large Ferris wheel.

SeaWorld Orlando
is a theme park, and marine-life based zoological park, near Orlando, Florida, that when combined with its neighbor Discovery Cove and the Aquatica waterpark, it forms a larger entertainment complex devoted to Earth’s oceans and the array of life that inhabits them.

Google Street View was introduced in the United States but can now be seen in 48 countries around the world.

See more Google summer attractions in the U.S. through Street View imagery, and make plans to cool off today.

[Flickr photo by matheuslotero]

A Few Mediterranean Sidewalk Cafés Can Make Travel Personal

In popular cities of the Mediterranean, mobs of tourists come by bus, train, air and cruise ship. Looking to see famous destinations with their own eyes, perhaps fulfilling lifelong dreams, they clamber for the best view. During the summer, many visitors point and shoot only the top of iconic destinations to avoid photos that include the herd. But on a recent trip to the Mediterranean, we found some of the best shots at ground level while sitting in a sidewalk café.

The sidewalk cafés of Mediterranean cities are a great way to create lasting memories that may never be repeated again. Breaking away from the throngs of tourists visiting Dubrovnik in Croatia and Rome in Italy along with other must-see locations, time spent at local cafés was precious.

If we really want a good look at any of these places, we can Google just about any destination for uncluttered images of whatever we want to see without even going there. Get off a lucky shot during peak tourist season and that’s all the better.

Taking the time to sit and drink it all in at a sidewalk café has made for a more personal experience when traveling, an experience that photos can also capture.

Check this photo gallery that has many of the sidewalk cafés we enjoyed.


[Photos- Chris Owen]

Book From A BMW, Enter The Hotel Room With A Car Key

The key to the future of hotel booking might just lie in new technologies being developed by BMW. The car company is researching a process that will allow drivers to book a hotel room from their car’s navigation system, be directed to their hotel and then proceed straight to their rooms where they can then unlock their hotel room doors using a chip in their keys.

BMW has been working with electronic lock and safe company VinCard Elsafe and Micros property management systems to create the new mode of booking, which works thanks to near-field communications (NFC) – a set of short-range wireless technologies.

Here’s how it works: drivers will be prompted to enter their credit card information into their navigation systems one time (and one time only). BMW’s navigation system will then be able to use Google to detect nearby hotels, populating a list for the driver. The system will connect to the hotel reservation system thanks to Micros, a property management software, which enables guests to book and pay for the room from the car. At this point, drivers must confirm their identity by entering a personal identification number. A credit card clearing company handles the invoicing and the hotel is notified that the reservation is guaranteed. It sounds complicated, but the entire process will only take a few taps on a screen for drivers.

Then comes the really cool part: the hotel room assignment is then sent back to the car, where drivers can press a button on their navigation system that puts them on course to the hotel. Their car key, which is equipped with NFC, will then receive an access code to the guest room. Guests have no reason to check in at the desk; they can go straight to their room where VinCard Elsafe locks, which are NFC-enabled, will let them in with the swipe of a key.

There was some buzz about BMW’s research back in April, but a press release from VinCard Elsafe confirms that development is underway. For now, we can only speculate what this means for the future of hotel booking – even to those of us who don’t drive BMWs. When the new mode of booking is finally introduced, here’s to hoping drivers pull over to the side of the road to make their selections.

[Photo by drewgstephens, Flickr]